People are always asking me if I know Tyler Durden…*
Last week I wrote about my two week hike through Swedish wilderness.
Turns out, two weeks of carrying a heavy pack through sunlight-drenched silent congregations of pine trees is a good way to do a few things:
It’s a good way to sweat (I came back 5 kilos lighter).
It’s a good way to reset your body clock (I started going to sleep and waking up with the sun).
And it’s a good way to think.
One of the things I kept thinking about was a passage I’d read just before leaving Edinburgh, concerning how little we actually need as human beings.
“Do you know what limits the law of nature ordains for us? Merely to avoid hunger, thirst, and cold.” – Seneca
It played in my mind because it was very close to how I was living. I was carrying the bare minimum of food, finding water as I went, and sleeping each night under the roof of some wilderness cabin.
But, far from finding myself wanting, in many ways I felt happier and freer than I had in a long time.
It’s such a simple idea. That all we need is: a place to keep us warm, a little water to drink, and a little food to eat. Yet this simple frame shows us that much of what we desire in modern life is, at best optional, and at worst blatantly superfluous.
Did you ever see the movie: ‘Book Of Eli‘?
Denzel Washington plays a man travelling through a post-apocalyptic landscape on a Mysterious Quest. Resources are at a premium, including water, plastic bottles, and all kinds of other commonplace items. When the plucky young sidekick (played by Mila Kunis) asks the main character what life was like ‘before the flash’ he replies:
“People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious and what wasn’t. We threw away things people kill each other for now.”
I’m no scientist, but it seems obvious (even to a layman) that our current rate of consumption (coupled with population growth) will soon reach a level that is unsustainable.
Which is an issue.
So what are you saying dude? That we shouldn’t have the nice things? That we should be, like, in a cult where we renounce the unholy iPad and live like animals in the forest?
Not really. Unless that’s your thing.
The problem isn’t the having of the nice things (you’re talking with someone who has a music studio in their apartment). The problem is not being able to stop wanting… just a little more.
Because, as those Buddhist guys have been telling us since the jump, wanting is the thing that makes us unhappy. Wanting is our nameless hunger. It never ends, and is never satisfied. And today, regrettably, we are conditioned to want more than ever before.
“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.” Tyler Durden (famous Buddhist)
But Do Not Fear, you have the antidote to this particular malady already in your possession and it’s a cinch to take:
Because if you can remind yourself that all we actually need is: a little water, a little food, and some warmth, when you look at some of the things you *think* you need, you can see that they’re optional, which can help you let go of wanting them.
You don’t even need to let go of wanting them completely. In fact, a little goes a long way.
And we’ve been aware of this for a hot minute. In fact, in 63AD Seneca wrote :
“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, who is poor.”
(In case you’re wondering, Seneca’s the guy from Fight Club.)
Even further back, in the misty before times of the 6th century BC when a man said to Gautama Buddha:
“I want happiness.”
“First remove ‘I,’ that’s the Ego, then remove ‘want,’ that’s desire. See now you are only left with Happiness.”
Understanding and being cognizant of how little we actually need helps you to let go of wanting. Letting go of wanting allows you to be happier, and is much better for you than not letting go of it.
Fuck it. Maybe I should go back to the forest.
*People don’t really ask me this, it’s just the first line from the movie version of Fight Club.
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